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SAM_4068We’re going to take a break here for a minute from all of the soaking, sozoing, and shabar-ing we’ve been doing lately, so grab yourself a towel and sit tight.

A week ago today, the March issue of Good Housekeeping hit the newsstands. I, along with five other women, were interviewed by a journalist for a story the magazine wanted to do on domestic violence. I’ve never been interviewed for a national magazine before, and I have to say it’s been an interesting experience. The whole process took about six months from beginning to end.

I wrote a lot, not just about my own situation, but about domestic violence in general, and emotional abuse in particular, which is what the term gaslighting refers to. It’s taken from the 1944 movie Gaslight, starring Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer. Other terms for this kind of abuse are mind games and crazy-making. They’re tactics used by an abuser that are intended to make you question your own reality, or worse, make others doubt your reality. It’s a ploy designed to isolate you, and cut off any means of support or help. It deflects attention away from the behavior of the abuser and onto the person they’re abusing. The behavior itself isn’t addressed; instead, the mental stability of the person being abused becomes the focus (yes, gaslighting occurs in counseling, and frequently results in collusion) and this is why you do not ever counsel both spouses together when there is domestic violence going on. It’s a dangerous (and in my case, almost deadly) mistake, and one that Christian counselors in particular frequently make in their zeal to “save the marriage”. But untrained and uninformed people can do a lot of harm, even when they mean well. Domestic violence is not a matter of anger management. Abusers manage their anger very well, and can stop on a dime and turn on the charm when they want to.  Most churches, at least the ones I know of, never have a domestic violence agency come in and train their leaders. This is why most of the people in the pews don’t bother reaching out to church leaders for help. It isn’t there.


Anyway, I thought I had made myself pretty clear, both in what I had written and in the phone interviews, but I think that in the end the editors of the magazine tried to make my story fit their story. I think that what they wanted was a part on spiritual abuse, and pulled bits and pieces from what I had written and said about my own experience in order to do so. The problem is that while my husband was emotionally, physically and verbally abusive, the spiritual abuse, if any, came from the church, not him.  (I personally don’t consider my disappointment about not being able to go to Bible college to be abuse at all). They completely missed the fear and danger of what my daughters and I went through.

The part about what the elder’s wife said is true, unfortunately, but that is not the point at which I “quit reaching out and started praying I’d find a way out.” The truth is, I never did actually reach out to begin with; help found me, first from my primary care doctor, and then from a pastor at a different church than the one we were attending. The part about my pastoral counselor isn’t true at all; she never said that, or even implied it. All I said in the phone interview was that I made the mistake (huge mistake) of having my husband go along with me to my counseling in the first place, and that he controlled the whole thing from the beginning. But my counselor was never his counselor, and we didn’t go to her for marriage counseling.  Looking back, I can see that maybe I didn’t make that clear.  I thought I did, but I was so upset at the time that it’s possible that I didn’t.  I had to look over all of the notes from the police reports and court appearances in order to send the facts of the charges and orders of protection for the magazine, and in reading the court reports I can see that the counselor honestly thought we were there for marriage counseling, when, in fact, the counseling was for me. I knew I needed a witness and an advocate, and help with the grief and anger I was trying to deal with on my own.  I knew that whatever I was facing was going to be too heavy – too difficult – for me to handle by myself. Friends and family can love and support you, and they did, but they can be too emotionally involved sometimes to be of much practical help. I just needed the facts regarding adultery, from him, because those were the facts I believed I needed in order to decide what to do about divorce. I didn’t know that it was okay to leave an abusive situation if you were a Christian; I was never taught that. He went, because he wanted someone to validate him and protect his reputation; and to make sure that my counselor didn’t believe me.

I also wanted to make it clear to the editors that I, like most women, didn’t stay in the marriage because of “low self-esteem”. The average woman will leave an abusive situation an average of seven times.  The church leaders (at the time) had a “three-times-and-you’re-out” policy, meaning that they would help and support you no more than three times, and if your situation didn’t improve, then they were done with you, and you were on your own. There was absolutely no knowledge or awareness of domestic violence, or how to help people in crisis. The most dangerous times for any woman in a domestic violence situation are when she is pregnant, or during the first six months after leaving.  Another huge reason woman stay, and something I stressed to the writer, is the issue of finances. When women leave an abusive situation, they, along with their children, quite often fall immediately below poverty level. If all you have ever been is a stay-at-home mom, and in my case, a home-schooling mom, and all you have is one car, which he is going to get to take with him; and no viable means of getting employment and health insurance, you’re going to do your best to make that marriage work. Losing your house is not a small thing, especially if you have children; in our case, it has resulted in years of moving and instability that have only made things worse, not better.  I’ve never had the chance to get better, because I’m always trying to keep a roof over our head and the lights on. I can’t remember a day that hasn’t been clouded by grief and worry for over fifteen years. There are no ‘happy’ days, although there are happy moments, albeit few and far between.

Having said all of that, years of physical and verbal/emotional abuse do take a toll, and yes, your self-esteem suffers. When all you hear, day after day, is “No one will ever love you – no man in his right mind will ever want you – even your counselor is going to see what you are and reject you” (and she did, in the end) it hurts.  You don’t feel attractive, you don’t feel pretty, you don’t feel wanted. You feel pathetic. Rejection and fear are the feelings you learn to live with on a daily basis. The physical abuse is simply too embarrassing and too difficult to write about, to be honest. The whole thing is humiliating.

The one quote in the article that is exactly what I said is that “divorce doesn’t end abuse, it merely changes it. It may not be happening in your living room any more, but it happens on the phone, in the driveway, at school events and soccer games.” The church still shuns you, although they let you know in subtle and not-so-subtle ways that they are “praying for you and hoping you come back to the Lord.” I didn’t fall away from the Lord however, or ever lose my faith in God, although I’ve lost it in people. On the contrary this experience has deepened my faith in God. The person who actually helped, in the end, wasn’t my own pastor but was Pastor John Carter, from Abundant Life Christian Center in Syracuse, N.Y.  He is the only person I actually ever saw confront my husband about the violence in our home (on the midway at the State Fair, of all places) and I will forever be grateful for that, and for his help and counsel.  I went to Abundant Life after the divorce because I felt safe there. The counselor helped in that it she provided a safe place to go and try to deal with all of it. Sometimes we need to pay someone to just sit still and hear us.  To be both a presence and a witness to our grief, and sometimes, but not always, a friend.

Anyway, I thought that everything I said in the interview was all very clear. The problem, I believe, lies with the magazine editors, not the writer of the article. She seemed to understand what I was saying, and as a counselor myself, I know how difficult it can be to try to write a verbatim account of everything that was said in an interview, especially if you don’t know them personally.  It’s easy to make a mistake, or to get a wrong impression, no matter how hard you try to be accurate. When the ‘fact-checker’ editor from the magazine called me, I did tell her that she did not have the facts quite right, and tried to correct her, but she seemed to already have the story written as far as the magazine was concerned. I told her that the quote from my counselor was incorrect, and asked that it not be included, but for some reason, they wrote it into the article anyway.

I am horrified to see that they quoted her as having said something she did not ever say, or even imply, and to see it when I got my issue last week was extremely upsetting. I can’t fix it, no matter how sorry I am, and have had a difficult week worrying about it all of it. Any relief I had from finally being able to tell my story has been ruined by the error, however unintentional it may have been. After six long months of waiting for this story to come out, I don’t think I’ve done anything but cry since it did. Believe me when I say that I haven’t slept in a week. I am just so disappointed.

What I learned from this whole experience is that the story that results from an interview is not necessarily going to be written at all the way it was said. I will never read an article again without thinking I wonder if that’s how it really happened? I learned that from now on I will write my own articles, and tell my own story.  I may not get it all right, but at least I will know why, and where the problem lies.


Refuting the FAQ’s


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SAM_3670The more I look into this, the more odd and unhealthy the whole thing gets. According to the FAQ’s as posted on Bethel Sozo’s website, a Sozo session is “framed” with the Father Ladder (a method of interviewing the client) or the Four Doors (supposedly four key areas of sin through which demonic possession or oppression can occur, boldly ignoring all of the other sins listed in scripture, all of which are of key concern to God). According to the FAQ’s page, a Sozo session will contain elements of these Sozo tools: Father Ladder, Four Doors, The Wall (think resistance, or more specifically, an emotional or psychological blockage) and Presenting Jesus, and states that other tools may be used, but “will not dominate the ministry time.” These are only four of the ‘tools’ used in a Sozo session; the others are considered Advanced Tools, namely, Trigger Mechanisms and Divine Editing. In addition to that, and for an additional cost, there is Shabar, for those who are beyond the scope of deliverance available through ordinary, entry-level false teaching.

“Presenting Jesus” has to do with conjuring up an image of Jesus in your mind (this is akin to divination, which is forbidden in scripture) and ‘re-writing’ the script of past abuse (real or imagined) by picturing him as being present in the memory. This tool is actually derived from the teachings of Dr. Ed Smith, who invented Theophostic Prayer Ministry, and even earlier from the teachings of Agnes Sanford, who began the ‘inner healing’ and ‘healing your inner child’ movement. Nowhere in scripture are we told to do this, however, and if an image representing ‘Jesus’ appears to you in your prayer session, it is in all probability either a figment of your imagination, or even worse, it is a spirit most assuredly not of God. The ‘freedom and deliverance’ movement itself is based largely on superstition and magical thinking, not on faith and reason.

The purpose of these tools is to dig for repressed, or forgotten memories of past abuse and emotional wounds; they are psycho-therapeutic techniques long since discredited and no longer endorsed by mainstream psychotherapy. Worth noting is the fact that neither of the two women who created Sozo are professional therapists, and apparently know little of mental health and evidence-based theories and therapies. They also, by their own admission, have no formal training in biblical doctrine and theology.

In answer to the question “When is a Sozo/deliverance finished?” the site states that the session is finished “when you [the counselor] discern that the ‘strong man’ has been defeated” or “when you or the ‘sozoee’ feel that you are finished.” (Emphasis mine).

Let’s be clear: anyone with even a shred of discernment or biblical knowledge should know that the ‘strong man’ in a true Christian is God, in the form of the Holy Spirit, and that the devil and God do not occupy (dwell in) the same space (house). Do you really want to cast the strong man out of a believer? Those who are advocating for deliverance ministries in the church will be quick to acknowledge that while a Christian cannot be possessed from within, a Christian can be ‘oppressed’ (demonized) from without. This is the justification generally given for allowing these ministries to operate within the church, and as a result, many people are lining up in churches and conferences around the world to have their particular thorn in the flesh removed. And they’re paying a pretty penny for it, too.

They will also be quick to point out that some of the people Jesus delivered [cast demons out of] in scripture were in the temple, ergo, they must have been Christians. Just because you find it in the cookie jar, however, doesn’t mean it’s a cookie, and you couldn’t then and cannot now make the assumption that every person in the church or hanging out on the church property is a born-again, Spirit-filled, bible-believing Christian.

In answer to the question “In a Shabar session, when do you know when to quit if complete integration is not accomplished?” the somewhat lengthy answer is that if you can’t get the client completely integrated, you are to focus instead on providing information, hope, and at least some integration, along with an admonishment to not force the person or ‘parts’ to talk to God. These clients are to be given time to see “if they like the parts being gone” and whether or not they want another session.

This alone should be enough for you to stay clear of any ministry using Sozo. It is a blatant reference to Multiple Personality Disorder which, as I wrote about several weeks ago, is not a legitimate diagnosis, and therefore requires neither treatment nor ministry. They don’t seem to have access to this information on the West Coast however, and so are accepting payments in order to deliver people from a problem they don’t – and can’t – have because it doesn’t exist. The sheer lunacy that forms the foundation of these ‘deliverance ministries’ pales in comparison to the ethical concerns.

Think about this: even Lazarus, whom Jesus raised from the dead, eventually died and stayed dead. The Bible doesn’t say that he lived the rest of his life in perfect health, or never got sick, or experienced problems that could be interpreted as ‘being oppressed’. And nowhere in scripture did Jesus partially heal someone and then send them home to wait 3-6 months to see if they were ‘okay’ with living partially healed, or if they wanted to come back later, check in hand, in order for him to completely heal them the second or third time around.

Further down the FAQ’s page, the question “Can one Sozo session actually heal a lie that has been believed for many years?” is answered in the affirmative. “Once the Lord heals the first time the lie was settled into your spirit, the rest of your life experiences based on this lie will realign to His truth.” The real answer, however, is that Sozo itself is based on lies, and no, you cannot be ‘healed’ from your painful memories in just one session. Spiritual and emotional healing comes from many hours spent in the Word of God, along with time in prayer alone; your life experiences will heal and ‘realign’ as you study His Word and apply it to your life, meaning that you will begin to see the events and experiences in your life in light of a greater picture (from God’s perspective). It doesn’t miraculously happen in one or two facilitated Sozo or Theophostic prayer sessions. The idea that all of your problems are based on believing lies is a recent trend that has infiltrated the church through books like “The Search for Significance” and “The Bondage Breaker.” Your problems aren’t caused by believing lies, however, they’re caused by sin, whether your own or someone else’s.

This is a subtle deception that has crept into the church through the recovery movement, eroding the clear message of the gospel and our need for salvation through Christ alone. You were “sozoed” when you became a believer; when you first believed that Jesus is Lord, that He died on the cross for your sins, and that He delivered you from eternal death by taking your place. This is deliverance for the Christian, and if you are one, then you have already been delivered. The real bondage breaking happens when you break free from all of the superficial, superstitious nonsense that is passed off as normative post-modern Christianity, and begin to seek and follow Truth as it is portrayed in scripture.

Another noteworthy find on the Sozo ministries FAQ’s page is the question “How do you minister to someone who received wounds while in the womb?”

Yes, it actually says that. And yes, they actually attempt to do this.

Are we really that gullible?

A popular misconception currently sweeping the churches is the idea that trauma and abuse ‘open a door’ to demonic oppression, but this is pure superstition, plain and simple. Trauma and abuse are terrible actions perpetrated by human beings who act out their sinful natures and evil tendencies on those who can’t defend themselves. They are not ‘entry points for the enemy’ or sources of demonic oppression, and you don’t heal these things by subjecting already wounded and traumatized people to a ‘deliverance’ session. Nor, for that matter, do you need healing for wounding that occurred while you were in the womb. Your mother might, but you don’t.

The FAQ’s page also states that “the leaders of your team should be the ones sozoing the leaders of your church.”

If someone is “sozoing” the leaders of our church, then we have a much larger and different problem – one that involves leadership, and their responsibility to keep false teaching out of the church, not to participate in it.

Can I lead someone to freedom if I don’t have any myself? would be humorous if it weren’t so disturbing.

Having said all of that, there is one guaranteed way to be delivered from demonic oppression that doesn’t require shelling out your hard-earned cash for a thinly veiled exorcism. Calling it ‘deliverance’ is merely a matter of semantics.

The one sure path to deliverance from demonic oppression is to abandon the Christian faith.  Because if you think you’re going to attempt to live the rest of your life as an even remotely mature believer, and think the enemy isn’t going to be a constant thorn in your flesh while you do so, you haven’t really studied your bible or the history of the church.  You can expect to be oppressed, tempted, persecuted and tried from the moment you set your mind to live a righteous and holy life. You can’t cast out consequences. There are demon-possessed people out there, but they aren’t spirit-filled believers, and odds are they aren’t holed up somewhere with a bag of chips, desperately searching websites for the nearest church performing exorcisms.

I can’t say this strongly enough: stay away from Sozo and Theophostics, and all of the other ‘inner healing’ and ‘deliverance’ ministries, especially those that utilize elements and techniques of recovered memory therapy. They are not healthy, they are not biblical, and they are not necessary.

Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God; because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is the spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world. Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world.      1 John 4:4



Have We Lost Our Minds?


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The weird and wacky comes not only from the East, but also from the West.  The West Coast, to be specific.  In Redding, California, there is a church called Bethel.  And at this church called Bethel, there is a ministry called SOZO.  And within this ministry called SOZO (Greek for saved, healed, delivered) there is another ministry called Shabar.  (A Hebrew word meaning broken-hearted but which can also mean shattered).

There are six ‘tools’ that are used in SOZO:

  • Father Ladder
  • Four Doors
  • Presenting Jesus
  • The Wall
  • Trigger Mechanisms (Advanced Tool)
  • Divine Editing (Advanced Tool)

These are psycho-therapeutic techniques used by the facilitator (counselor) in a 2-3 hour session for determining the point of the client’s “father wound”, an idea straight out of repressed memory therapy and the inner-healing movement.

For those who have sought help, healing or deliverance through SOZO, but were unable to attain (or maintain) their help, healing and deliverance, there are special (advanced) methods within Shabar both for those who are aware and also for those who are unaware that they have been Shabar-ed.

I swear I’m not making this up.  But someone is.  Two someone’s, in fact:  Dawna DeSilva, the founder and leader of SOZO ministry, and Teresa Liebscher.  They, along with the Bethel SOZO team, are making their money by taking your money for a method of healing and deliverance that is not only nowhere to be found in scripture, but wasn’t found anywhere at all until they thought it up and marketed it.  Which, for those of you who haven’t noticed, is apparently how we do ‘divine’ or special revelation these days.  We download it from the recesses of our minds and imaginations, put it into a book or DVD format, stick a PayPal button on our website, and voila – we’re legit.  (Well, only if and when people hit that little ‘add to cart’ button).

Bill Johnson, and his wife Beni are the senior pastors at Bethel.  (A pastor, also called a shepherd in scripture, is someone who has the responsibility of leading, guiding and protecting the people of his church, especially from wolves-in-sheep’s-clothing;  A.K.A false teachers).  Bethel, which had its start in 1954 in Redding California, was originally an Assemblies of God church, but in 2006, under the leadership of Johnson, it became non-denominational.  It’s a large church, with a large and active healing and deliverance ministry, and an Alabaster Prayer Room where people can go to spend time in prayer, or for an experience called ‘soaking’.

I looked the word soaking up in the concordance to see what the Bible has to say about it, and here is what I found:

Absolutely nothing.

We live in odd times.  We live in an age of self-appointed apostles and self-proclaimed prophets, many of whom have everyone on Facebook hungering and thirsting to claim them as their new BFF.  It’s time to grow up, people.  There’s a lot going on in the world, and too many of us are running house to house and meeting to meeting to find out “what new thing God is doing”.  Except that most of it isn’t new;  we’re borrowing it from metaphysics and mysticism, which has been around a lot longer than we have.  We’re just putting catchy new labels on it, but idolatry by any other name is still idolatry.  We’re not making mature disciples, we’re making flaky ones.

If anyone tells you that they have received special revelation freely from God (and this isn’t, it’s been cobbled together partly from the teachings of Randy Clark, who took his show on the road to Bethel in the 90’s, and partly from ‘deliverance’ ministries in Argentina) and they want you to pay them in order to receive this special revelation from them, think twice before giving them access to your bank account.  And while we’re on this subject, if anyone requires you to sign a release of liability form before they will pray for you, run as fast as you can in the opposite direction.  Find someone else to pray for you, or do your own praying.  There should be all kinds of red flags and warning bells going off in your head on this one.  Can you see, anywhere in the New Testament, where anyone pulled a bunch of papers and a pen out of their robes before ministering and said “We’re going to set you free, but sign here first”?  I don’t think so.

I guess my primary concern with all of this is its propensity to create and encourage the formation of false memories.  In the secular world of psychology, methods like these were debunked and discredited long ago (well, according to a recent Harvard newsletter I received, not so long ago) but for some reason, the church – especially our local ones, are still doing the kind of counseling that isn’t so much about growth and maturity as it is about ‘healing your inner child’ and digging for whatever image may pop into your mind that would explain your current dysfunctional behavior.  There may well be abuse in your past, and quite a few traumatic memories.  But, by and large, people don’t forget trauma, and the dysfunctional behavior more often than not is due to the stress and pain caused by not being able to forget.  Any memory that you now have, that you didn’t have before your therapy, or before going for prayer (this includes Theophostic prayer, or the use of any other therapeutic technique that defies the laws of both science and common sense) is suspect and should not be taken as a real and legitimate [accurate] memory.  This includes psycho-therapeutic techniques such as writing about your early childhood with your non-dominant hand in order to probe the unconscious, or subconscious mind, to the use of hypnosis, or any other practice that results in an altered state of consciousness.  This happens quite easily after 2-3 hours of prayer or mindless singing (and chanting) of the same mantra, verse, or even worship music.  You alter your brain waves, which is exactly what happens when you are asleep and dreaming.

Yes, we do need to spend time in prayer alone with God, and there is nothing wrong with listening to worship music, or praying for extended periods of time.  Our days would go better if we did.  But we also worship God with our lives, and too many of us are wasting our time running all over town, and all over the country, after every new trend and teaching that appeals to our emotional needs and desires, and more importantly to our emotional pain and desperation.  The enemy knows this, and when he can’t tempt us into sin, he uses the strategies of deception and distraction, and that is all that these false teachings amount to in the end.

And so, for heaven’s sake – for your own sake – quit soaking, sozo-ing and shabar-ing, and be instead like the Bereans of Acts 17, who sought truth by searching scripture.  And keep your money in the bank.

 These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether these things were so.          Acts 17:11






SAM_3674Here is a theory, in fact, I believe it to be a truth:  the absent parent is the one who holds the power.  I’ve heard it time and time again, from many a client, indirectly from my own children, and thought it many times regarding myself.  No matter what kind of person they were, or how heinous the crimes they may have committed, the parent who leaves is the parent who reigns.  Children hate divorce.  Regardless of the reason for a parent’s absence, they will be deified, glorified and vehemently, if need be, defended.  It may not be fair, it may not even be logical, but missing people leave holes.  Closure is a myth; we absorb the pain of loss and it becomes a part of us.  Scars tell us not only that we ourselves are real, but that what we have been through is real.  It’s proof that we have lived – are living, still – when all else says otherwise.  People leave.  They disappear.  There one minute, and gone the next, whether through death, divorce, or some other reason known only to themselves and God.  Sometimes in the middle of the night, sometimes in the middle of an afternoon, they are suddenly gone, taking hopes and dreams and all of their empty promises with them.  We deal with their absence the way we deal with most of our  unresolved and unhealed trauma – by revisiting the scene of the crime; if not literally, then figuratively, over and over again, in vain and often subconscious attempts to get a different outcome.  We sit in graveyards or parking lots, therapy rooms and waiting rooms.  Waiting.

… always waiting ...

For what, we don’t know and often can’t put into words.  We speak to people who are no longer there.  We dream about them, and have imaginary conversations in our minds with those who have long ago up and left us or shut us out, leaving only ghosts, shadows and tears in their wake.

And a whole lot of pain.

How we deal with the pain is another matter entirely.  I personally prefer pain to be private, at least the deep pain that distorts the body and the face until we’re unrecognizable, even to those who love and care for us.  No, that kind of pain is for deep corners and dark closets.  Therapy rooms, if we’re lucky enough to find someone who is both safe and compassionate, but for most of us, we have to find our own way.  I write my blog in lieu of therapy; the pastoral counselor who made such sincere and heartfelt promises having long since shut and barred her door in a fit of anger;  over what, I still don’t know.

I saw a photo of myself yesterday, and was struck by how bad I look and how much weight I’ve gained since That Horrible Day.  I don’t even recognize the woman in the photo;  she looks sad and tired.  It’s embarrassing and discouraging.  In my head, I have felt that I’ve moved on and am doing okay, but seeing that picture made me realize that I’m stuck.  I’m carrying a lot around with me, and I’m reasonably sure that everyone can see it, at least on the outside.  My friends don’t say anything or even seem to have noticed, but comments and little ‘jokes’ from family sting.  I don’t like photos of myself, and never have.  It’s why you’ll never see a profile picture of me that is actually me, not a flower, or a joke, or a pretty picture of something.  In my lifelong quest to be invisible, this blog is the only thing I have that is really me.  That, and the hundreds of books and other miscellaneous objects I cart around with me from house to house.

I had a recent health scare, and while the biopsies came back negative, it did make me think Good Lord, I need to do something about all of this.  Looking at that photo made me realize that I’m not as in control of my life as I’d like to think I am.  I feel as hopeless and helpless over this area as many of the people (clients) who have sat in front of me do.  I owe it to them to figure it out.  I have no idea how I’m going to do this, but I have to at least try.  I have a lot to lose.


Pain has an element of blank;

It cannot recollect

When it began, or if there was

A time when it was not.

It has no future but itself,

Its infinite realms contain

Its past, enlightened to perceive

New periods of pain.

– Emily Dickenson


The Healing House


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It’s a difficult thing, this healing from misguided therapy.  And lonely.  There are no awards.  You don’t get a coffee mug, or a T-shirt saying “I survived False Memory Syndrome.”  Or, for that matter, one saying “I survived bad psychotherapy”.

I have studied everything I can get hold of, and my brain feels stretched and tired.  I’m discouraged.  I feel I have so much to ‘unlearn’ that it’s not even funny.  So much of what I’ve been taught in this long journey as a Christian, and, I’m ashamed to say, so much of what I’ve believed and taught myself, is not even scriptural.  (Meaning, it can’t be found in the Bible).  It wasn’t until I had the space, time, and opportunity this past year to actually unpack everything, and look at each and every book and teaching I’ve collected over the years, and consider honestly where and who it all came from.  Because of crisis, because of having to leave an abusive situation and raise two kids on my own, while working and going back to school, I just kept “doing” without stopping.  The only times I had to think were the times I spent walking, and talking to God, and trying to process everything that was going on.

But I never really unpacked all of these boxes until we got to this house.  We never had the room, and I never had the time.

A couple of years ago, a co-worker asked me to come and be a counselor at her new place of ministry in the city.  It wasn’t long before she asked me to teach the group Healing for Damaged Emotions, based on the book (and workbook) by David A. Seamands.  The book is based on the popular notion that we all need healing from our past hurts and damaged emotions – that our inner child is controlling us because we have ‘unhealed memories’ that, through a process delineated throughout Seamand’s books, we can be now be healed, and so move on to living victorious Christian lives.  How the church survived without this enlightened teaching for over two thousand years, I don’t know.  What I hadn’t realized was how much of his teaching is based more on Eastern Mysticism than on biblical truth.  It was an obscure reference in one of his books to his ‘ashram retreats’ that caught my attention.  Not surprisingly, Seamand’s was raised in India, and his beliefs are more in line with other ‘Christian mystics’ who are also known proponents of cataphatic prayer* and methods of inner healing derived from the early synthesis of the teachings of Agnes Sanford and Carl Jung.  Somehow, and without our noticing, these teachings have crept into the church to the point where we have an entire ‘recovery’ movement based on healing our wounded emotions and healing our inner child.  We have sin-specific groups that are based not on fellowship and spiritual growth, but rather on our particular areas of woundedness and our identity as a victim.  Self-love is the new mantra of the church, but it’s bad theology.

I taught this myself, and now regret it, using Seamand’s diagram of the rings of a tree, showing how an injury from way back in our past influences our behavior today.  While I don’t dispute the notion that past injury can still affect us in the area of our current thoughts and behavior, the biblical standard of sanctification is pushed aside as a means of wholeness, and a self-absorbed victim mentality now presides over the throne room of our minds.  The idea that the root of our problems is low self-esteem, as Seamand’s teaches, is as egregious as the idea set forth in The Search for Significance, by Robert S. McGee: that the root of all of our problems is the fact that we are believing lies about ourselves.  The two teachings, taken together, result in a self-focused, lie-based theology rather than a God-focused, sin-based theology.

I think we’ve fallen far, and I know many, myself included, who have fallen hard.  We are wounded, not so much by our memories, but by the constant refrain that the only way to achieve a victorious Christian life is to heal all of our old wounded emotions.  The problem of course is that our emotions are going to, in all likelihood, be wounded again tomorrow.  Unless you find someway to cauterize those nerve endings, they’re going to get hurt, time and again, for as long as you live on this earth.  It becomes a never-ending process of self-absorption and introspection.

Does that mean we should never seek to be healed from past hurts?  No.  Nor am I a proponent of abdicating therapy, or counseling.  There is a time and a place to find a safe, wise person to talk to who can help or offer a different perspective, but it should lead to growth, wisdom and maturity, not stress, confusion and sickness of mind and heart.  It shouldn’t cost you your relationships, your job, your health, all of your resources or your education.  What I am saying is that we need to be careful.  Be very, very careful about jumping onto a bandwagon without first seeing it clearly for what it is.

The great enemy of truth is very often not the lie – deliberate, contrived and dishonest – but the myth – persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic.  J.G. Kennedy

*Cataphatic prayer is prayer that “honors and reverences images and feelings and goes through them to God.  This form of prayer also has an ancient and well-attested history in the world of religions.  Any sort of prayer that highlights the mediation of creation can be called cataphatic.  So, praying before icons, or images of saints; the mediation of sacraments and sacramentals; prayer out in creation – all of these are cataphatic forms of prayer.” (From Seeing is Believing, by Dr. Greg Boyd).  This book, like many others written by popular Christian authors, promotes the use of imagery and visualization in order to experience God and achieve inner healing.  God specifically forbids this, however, and likens it to the process of divination.



When Pigs Fly


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About a month ago, in the quiet upstate town of New Hartford, New York, in a church once begun in earnest, two brothers were attacked by their parents and several other members of the congregation. One of the boys has died, the younger suffered serious injuries. The boys were called into a ‘counseling session’ after church on a Sunday, but that session didn’t end until the next day, on Monday. They were questioned and physically attacked for hours because they wouldn’t confess and ask forgiveness for the things they were accused of.

It’s important to ask how such a horrific thing could happen.

I became a Christian at a youth event at Grace Assembly of God in Syracuse, N.Y.  (I believe it was in 1979, but it could have been 1978, making me about 13 or 14 years old.) Anyway, we went there for a while, but then started going to Nedrow Assembly of God, a small church in the valley because it was closer to home. We were there until I graduated from high school, but by the time we left to go back to Grace Assembly, I was a mess. At the time, ‘deliverance ministry’ was the New Big Thing, fueled largely by people like Bob Larson and Mike Warnke, and books such as Pigs in the Parlor: A Practical Guide to Deliverance and Spiritual Warfare (Impact Christian Book Books, 1973) by Frank and Ida Mae Hammond, which is actually still in print. Much has been written on the Deliverance Movement of the 70’s. It spawned a generation of false teaching and led to everything from the Satanic Panic of the 1980’s, to Satanic Ritual Abuse and the False Memory saga, and more recently to the calling out of ‘Jezebels’ in the Church and Neil T. Anderson’s The Bondage Breaker.

Anyway, I don’t know how it all came about, but one evening my parents drove me to the youth leader’s house, for what I believed was supposed to be some kind of prayer meeting. I don’t think I had any real understanding of what was going to happen there, and I certainly wasn’t prepared for it. All I remember about this particular meeting (if I’m remembering correctly) was that there were quite a few people in the youth leader’s living room, including my pastor and his wife from our previous church. I believe I sat in a chair in the middle of the room, which seemed dark to me for some reason. The all-important wastebasket appeared in front of me, as it did many years later, with the same explanation: some people throw up when the demons come out.

Sit tight for a minute, because it’s occurring to me as I write this that an entire church thought I was demon-possessed.


Moving right along:

I came across two different books this week, in two different stores. Both books were written by Charles H. Kraft, a retired seminary professor and former missionary. Both were books on healing and deliverance, and spiritual warfare.

There is so much wrong teaching in these books that I don’t even know where to start.

The first was Two Hours to Freedom; A Simple and Effective Model for Healing and Deliverance (Chosen Books, 2010). In a section on Dissociative Identity Disorder (formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder) Kraft states that he has prayed for deliverance for “hundreds of people” whose demonization was evidenced by the fact that they had “inners” (separate identities, or personalities on the inside of them) also known as “alters”, or “inner children”. The author describes a process whereby he takes clients back to their experience in the womb, and leads them, month by month, through their experiences in utero, specifically looking for areas where they may have hurtful memories or damaged emotions. From before they were born. Those who are uncomfortable with re-experiencing the ‘re-birthing process’ are deemed to be under the influence of demonic resistance, whom Kraft confronts and tries to elicit information from. (I personally consider the resistance to be a sign that there’s a shred of mental health left in there somewhere – in the client). He then progresses through the client’s elementary years, their adolescent and young adult years, and so on, inviting Jesus into each memory, using a method that can only be described as a type of Christian channeling, and guided imagery to ‘heal’ the memories, whether they are factual or not.


The other book, The Evangelical’s Guide to Spiritual Warfare: Scriptural Insights and Practical Instruction on Facing the Enemy (Chosen Books, 2015) was at Wegman’s. I ran in to pick up some thyroid medicine and a birthday card, and, lo and behold, there it was on the Christian book rack, only a few hours after finding the first book.

The beginning of the book states that it is actually a compilation of all of Kraft’s best work over the years (he has been doing this, I believe, since the 1980’s) but the information on Dissociative Identity Disorder he gives in chapter 11 is taken from the third edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (1980). The majority of the people who pick this book up and toss it into their shopping carts along with their milk and toilet paper are not going to know that we are now on the 5th edition of the DSM (as of October 2013). DID is still included as an actual disorder, although it was vigorously petitioned against by many in the mental health field. The term Multiple Personality Disorder, however, is no longer used. Kraft is apparently unaware of this, as he writes how he leads each ‘alter’ (personality) into right standing with Jesus, and when each one is finally at peace with God, he knows that “his work is done”. He also states that those in deliverance ministry need to learn how to distinguish between demonization and MPD/DID, again, apparently unaware that there is no such thing, and therefore no need to distinguish between the two.

In another section on false memories, Kraft says that he isn’t bothered at all by the fact that the memories conjured up during a prayer session may not be true, or that some people may have been falsely accused of sexually abusing someone, stating that it is far worse to not forgive those who actually did commit sins against you than it is to make things up. Well, try to tell that to the people whose lives are destroyed by being falsely accused of crimes they didn’t commit. And to the clients whose lives are ruined because they now have traumatic ‘memories’ and images in their heads of things that never happened in the first place, and the actual memories they do have of real events, however benign, are now tarnished.

I cannot imagine what the younger brother from the church in New Hartford is thinking and feeling. My heart goes out to him; I wish I could help him somehow. The images and memories of that horrible day will be with him forever. I wasn’t trying to compare my experience with his in any way, but was trying to show how out of hand things can get, and how much serious damage spiritual leaders can do. Even well-meaning people who sincerely believe they are doing the right thing can cause a lifetime of damage. I don’t remember much of the ‘prayer meeting’ in the valley, mostly because it was quite a long time ago and an awful lot has happened since then. But the New Hartford story has had me thinking about it quite a bit lately. What a horrible way to mess with a kid’s mind.

I wish we had never gone to the church in the valley. I worry that I will hurt people I care about by writing that. I wish so many things. That I had never experienced the dark side of what we call ‘church’. I am not writing this to dishonor, or disparage anyone, including Charles Kraft. That is not my intent. But this deliverance thing, the way the church is currently doing it, is false teaching – it has absolutely no scriptural ground to stand on – and it is false teaching that we need to be delivered from. My intent is to help people who are berating themselves for not doing it right, or wondering why their session didn’t work, or why they haven’t been delivered yet, in spite of hours of prayer, and searching for demons, or trying to heal their ‘inner child’. Relax. If you’re reading this, you are in all probability an adult, and you need to find an adult way of dealing with your hurts from the past. Stop looking for Jesus in your memories. He’s right where he’s been ever since he stormed the gates of Hell and took the keys. He’s on his throne at the right hand of God, praying and interceding for you. You don’t have inner children, or an inner child in you. You do have the Holy Spirit, and God did deliver you, on the cross. Now, go put your armor on and walk it out.

That is how Christians are supposed to do spiritual warfare.

Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.   – Galatians 5:1

Midnight Musings


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We had an event at church tonight, a fall festival in the parking lot.  There were bounce houses, games, cotton candy, and face painting.  Kids and colored wigs everywhere.

And underneath the costumes, and coats, and scarves, there was an awful lot of pain.

I heard stories of loss, and profound disappointment.  Stories for which there are no easy answers, when even offering to pray for someone sounds trite and condescending.  I think sometimes the reason we offer to pray for people is to make an uncomfortable conversation more palatable;  it makes us feel better, as though we’ve done something to help when, in truth, there is nothing that can be done.

This doesn’t fit our culturally sanitized version of Christianity.  I can think of five people right off the top of my head who would be so upset with me for even writing something like that.  We’re supposed to pray with power, and authority, and fix everything and everyone with scriptures, and platitudes, and hollow-sounding affirmations that fall on deaf ears and broken hearts.

Sometimes all you can do is just say how very sorry you are.  And leave it at that.  Sometimes there’s absolutely nothing to say, at all.  I know that when going through the worst of it, people would pray, meaning to help, wanting to do something, and it did nothing for me.  Things that helped?  Something to drink, hot or cold, depending on the day.  Space to be quiet.  Freedom to not talk.  A place to rest.  Sometimes a walk, even if I didn’t feel like talking.  I’m ashamed to say I wasn’t usually listening, either;  I was feeling the warmth of the sun, or the heat of the mug, or the softness of a blanket.  But that’s it.  When you’re grieving, people’s voices seem so far away.  They’re comforting, because it means you’re not alone, but the expectation to hold up your end of a conversation is physically exhausting.  Short, simple questions work best.  Not a lot of them.

My own, constant prayer on a bad day is “Dear God, please hold my heart together.  I can’t do this anymore.  I certainly can’t do this today.”

If we have kids, we do it for them.  I don’t know what people do who don’t have any.  I really don’t know.  I know I wouldn’t be here.

But tonight, dear God, please hold their hearts together.  The people who, for whatever reason, opened their hearts to me tonight.  Help them and hold them.

Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might.  – Ephesians 6:10

My Odyssey


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  1. 640px-Departure_of_Ulysses_from_the_Land_of_the_PheaciansSo, I turned fifty in June.  I had to walk away from the blog for a bit (except for the post on July 4th) because there were too many other things that required my attention, and while a blog post may read easily, it definitely isn’t quick and easy to write.  A lot has happened in the past couple of months, not the least of which was leaving the church that I’ve been a member of since my divorce in 2003.  I have gone back to the one I belonged to before, the church my daughters grew up in.  It was not an easy decision, but I believe it’s the right one for this time and this season.  I have thought long and hard about it over the last year.  I wanted to be absolutely sure that I’m not just running away.

Because sometimes there is a fine line between leaving and running away.

I am well aware that I am doing a bit of both, but I do believe that this is the assignment God has called me to for this season.  People keep asking if I’m “happier there” but to me, that’s irrelevant.  It’s the wrong question, the right one being: is this where I’m supposed to be?  As Christians, I believe we should go where we’re called, and where we’re needed.  We don’t come and go because we like the worship, or we like the people, or all of the perks and amenities offered as a result of membership.  The church is not a club, and the building is not a clubhouse.  I wasn’t ‘unhappy’ at the other church;  the only problem I ever had wasn’t with the church itself, it was the occasional breach of confidentiality by my pastoral counselor, who also attends that church.  If it weren’t for that I would have been quite happy there.  Time and again, she made it abundantly clear that I was neither welcomed, nor wanted.

Sometimes the giants in the land are the people we would least expect.

I keep forgetting, now that I’m back, that for everyone else, more than ten years have passed.  For me, it’s just been one very long, very bad year.  I find that I have to keep making small mental adjustments as people are talking to me.  They have no idea what I’ve been through since I left, and for the most part, they don’t need to.  But I keep wondering, what in the world happened to my life while I was in therapy?  Where did my life go?

I feel like I just woke up, and have discovered that I’m not who I was when I left.  Time will tell if this is a good thing, or a bad thing.  (Or, more likely, maybe I wasn’t who I really am while I was there.)

I am now in the process of reassembling my life, very carefully and very slowly, one piece, one person at a time.  It’s like sifting and sorting through the remains of a disaster, trying to find what’s worth salvaging, and what needs to be repaired or replaced.  I have long thought that the divorce hit me like a plane hitting one of the towers on 911, but what happened after the divorce, what happened in the end, with my counselor, was like having a tsunami hit in the exact same location, while everything in my life was still destroyed by the first crisis, and the air was still thick with smoke and falling debris.  And now, the waves;  of grief, regret, and shame, from having ever trusted anyone so completely and so stupidly.

I have been reading Homer since early spring, and feel somewhat akin to Odysseus, who, having experienced multitudinous adventures, returned home ten years after the Trojan War, only to find that nothing was as it was when he left.  I also had a Mentor on my journey, but instead of pointing the way home, she directed me away from home, as is common in long-term therapy.  My life became smaller and smaller, until there was almost nothing left.  I lost myself.

Or like Dickens’ Miss Pross, who, after the last fatal scene with the seething Madame Defarge, climbed into Jerry Crunchers’ carriage, having been rendered completely and permanently deaf in the struggle of her life.

“I feel,” said Miss Pross, “as if there had been a flash and a crash, and that crash was the last thing I should ever hear in this life.”

All I’ve had to go by for the last four years is a pillar and a cloud;  the Word of God and the inward leading of the Holy Spirit.  But that’s pretty much it.

“I can hear,” said Miss Pross, seeing that he spoke to her, “nothing. O, my good man, there was first a great crash, and then a great stillness, and that stillness seems to be fixed and unchangeable, never to be broken any more as long as my life lasts.” *

If I let myself think of all that I’ve lost – over twenty thousand dollars to my pastoral counselor, all for nothing, in the end;  time with my daughters, my family, and my friends; my health, home, jobs, graduate school – l get bogged down in sorrow and can’t function.  The memories I don’t have are the ones I didn’t make, because life happened while I was in counseling, and I feel like I missed it all.  Everyone else kept living;  I didn’t.  My life ended the day my counseling did, in a fit of rage and anger.   So, the best thing to do seems to be to try not to think about all of it, and distract myself by working hard and keeping busy.  And yes, leaving my church is part of that.

Let the healing begin.

“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you;  he will never leave you nor forsake you.  Do not be afraid;  do not be discouraged.”         Deuteronomy 31:8 (NIV)

* A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens.

It’ll Be Okay


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As I wrote last year, I don’t celebrate the Fourth of July.  It is far too painful;  if I close my eyes, I can still hear the shrieks and squeals of my daughters as they ran through the dark with their sparklers;  can still see the looks on their faces as the fireworks exploded in the night sky.  I can still feel the sweet, sticky little arms gripping my neck, and my hands, as they watched the parade in Manlius, waiting excitedly for their uncle to pass by in the fire truck.  Waiting to run out as the candy was thrown, before running back to our spot on the side of the road.  I tried, a couple of times, to go to the parade and fireworks without them, but it was disastrous, so now I usually just stay home.  It just hurts too much.  I miss them horribly.  I miss all of our traditions.  The family-ness of it all.

Happier times.

Happier times.

And when I do, I feel akin to those parents who have lost their children through some great tragedy.  Except that mine are perfectly fine.  Now young adults, they’re on a beach in Virginia this week, getting sunburned and hot as they wait to go to dinner with their father, and later to watch fireworks by the side of the ocean.  It’s the yearly family vacation……without me.  And it has been this way every year, since the divorce.

Because of a mix-up and a miscommunication, my pastoral counselor could not come to court that day, to be in the courtroom with me as I gave my testimony.  I knew I couldn’t do it without her, so we (or rather, our lawyers) agreed to settle in the hallway outside the courtroom.  She moved into a beautiful new home that day, and I lost mine.  Life happens.

I feel guilty as I grieve, because the reality is that my kids are fine.  It’s me who isn’t.  Not only that, but they will be home tomorrow, so I’m trying to keep busy today, cleaning and getting ready for them, otherwise my head is full of courtroom and counseling sessions.  (In truth, I haven’t done a single, blessed thing all day except cry.)  I am aware that those parents who have lost their children forever would gladly give up every holiday just to have their children alive and well, whether they could be together or not.  So, it feels like illegitimate grief, although that doesn’t make it any less painful.

As I write this, Jeff and Sheri Easter are singing “It’ll be Okay” in the background, on Daystar.

And I believe it will.  I believe that somehow, someway, some day, God will make it all okay in the end.  I have to believe this.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  Jeremiah 29:11